August 24, 2009


Ecclesiastes 1

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All Is Vanity

The words of the Preacher,1 the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

  Vanity2 of vanities, says the Preacher,
    vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
  What does man gain by all the toil
    at which he toils under the sun?
  A generation goes, and a generation comes,
    but the earth remains forever.
  The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
    and hastens3 to the place where it rises.
  The wind blows to the south
    and goes around to the north;
  around and around goes the wind,
    and on its circuits the wind returns.
  All streams run to the sea,
    but the sea is not full;
  to the place where the streams flow,
    there they flow again.
  All things are full of weariness;
    a man cannot utter it;
  the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
    nor the ear filled with hearing.
  What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done,
    and there is nothing new under the sun.
10   Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
  It has been already
    in the ages before us.
11   There is no remembrance of former things,4
    nor will there be any remembrance
  of later things5 yet to be
    among those who come after.

The Vanity of Wisdom

12 I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I applied my heart6 to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity7 and a striving after wind.8

15   What is crooked cannot be made straight,
    and what is lacking cannot be counted.

16 I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.

18   For in much wisdom is much vexation,
    and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.


[1] 1:1 Or Convener, or Collector; Hebrew Qoheleth (so throughout Ecclesiastes)
[2] 1:2 The Hebrew term hebel, translated vanity or vain, refers concretely to a “mist,” “vapor,” or “mere breath,” and metaphorically to something that is fleeting or elusive (with different nuances depending on the context). It appears five times in this verse and in 29 other verses in Ecclesiastes
[3] 1:5 Or and returns panting
[4] 1:11 Or former people
[5] 1:11 Or later people
[6] 1:13 The Hebrew term denotes the center of one's inner life, including mind, will, and emotions
[7] 1:14 The Hebrew term hebel can refer to a “vapor” or “mere breath” (see note on 1:2)
[8] 1:14 Or a feeding on wind; compare Hosea 12:1 (also in Ecclesiastes 1:17; 2:11, 17, 26; 4:4, 6, 16; 6:9)


Key Verse | Ecclesiastes 1:3

What benefit do people get from all the effort
which they expend on earth?
(Ecclesiastes 1:3)

Central Truth

There is nothing on planet Earth that can satisfy the cravings of the soul.

Devotional | Ecclesiastes 1

If you haven't read Ecclesiastes before, my guess is that you were taken aback by the first chapter. Solomon recounted theyears he spenttrying tosatisfy the hunger in his soul. He had pursued hedonism in a way few...

If you haven't read Ecclesiastes before, my guess is that you were taken aback by the first chapter. Solomon recounted the years he spent trying to satisfy the hunger in his soul. He had pursued hedonism in a way few people ever have. He had eaten the bread of wealth, knowledge, sex, and achievement; and none of these had satisfied him.

Although I haven't tested hedonism as far as Solomon did, I continually find that the expectation of something is more fulfilling than the event itself. Both in my personal and professional life, my natural tendency is to move from one thing to another as quickly as possible, and my focus is too often on keeping the pipeline full. I can be despondent or lethargic if I don't have something to look forward to—the next task, trip, deal, etc.

In Romans, Paul described how creation is “subjected to futility,” in “bondage [to] decay,” and awaiting “glorious freedom.” (Romans 8:20–21) Because of this, we are always hungry for something new. We ultimately want to alter the course of natural life, and it often leads us on a search to find permanent meaning through building and filling storehouses with earthly treasure.

And we continue to fail. We figured out how to fly a man to the moon years ago, but humans still cannot explain the void that comes from the universe's apparent indifference to our presence. The world was here long before we were born, and it will (we presume) be here after we are dead. Time is forever moving forward, but it seems to accomplish nothing. This reality leaves us with a lack of fulfillment that undermines our greatest accomplishments.  

The bottom line is that no amount of novelty, accomplishment, money, or drugs can satisfy the cravings of our souls. Only Jesus can permanently satisfy that craving. He says in John 6:35, "I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry . . . ."  The message could not be more clear. Run to Jesus, or run in vain.

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Bio | Aaron Graft

My name is Aaron Graft. I'm married to Kimberly, and we have two kids Aaron James and Clara.  

If you have ever sat next to me in church, you know that I am a terrible singer. I have concerns about whether I will be forced into a Milli Vanilli scenario in heaven. Eternity is a long time to lip sync!

Discussion Questions

1. What have you pursued in search of meaning—other than a relationship with God? How long did it take you to figure out that it was not the answer?

2. How different would your life look if you truly comprehended that Jesus is the Bread of Life?

3. What can you do today to reorient your search for significance towards a relationship with Jesus Christ?

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